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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Apple workers vote to unionise at Maryland store

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Apple store employees in a Baltimore suburb voted to unionise by a nearly two-to-one margin on Saturday, a union said, amid a growing push across US retail, service and technology industries to organise for greater workplace protections.

The retail workers in Towson, Maryland, voted 65-33 to seek entry into the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union’s announcement said. The vote could not immediately be confirmed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which would have to certify the outcome.

An NLRB spokeswoman referred initial queries about the vote to its regional office, which was closed late on Saturday.

Apple declined to comment on the development, a company spokesperson Josh Lipton told The Associated Press by phone.

Union organising in a variety of fields has gained momentum recently after decades of decline in US union membership. Organisers have worked to establish unions at firms including Amazon, Starbucks, outdoors retailer REI and Google parent company Alphabet.

The union and the employees who wanted to join said they had sent Apple chief executive Tim Cook notice last month that they were seeking to organise a union. The statement said their driving motivation was to seek “rights we do not currently have”. It added that the workers had recently organised in the Coalition of Organised Retail Employees, or Core.

“I applaud the courage displayed by Core members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr in the statement. “They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election.”

Mr Martinez called on Apple to respect the election results and to let the unionising employees fast-track efforts to secure a contract at the Towson location.

The union bills itself as one of the largest and most diverse industrial trade unions in North America, representing approximately 600,000 active and retired members in the aerospace, defence, airlines, railroad, transit, healthcare, automotive, and other industries.

It remained unclear what steps would follow the vote in Towson. Labour experts say it is common for employers to drag out the bargaining process in an effort to take the wind out of union campaigns.

The Apple store unionisation comes against a backdrop of other labour organising nationwide, with some of the efforts rebuffed.

Amazon workers at a warehouse in New York City voted to unionise in April, the first successful US organising effort in the retail giant’s history.

However, Amazon workers at a Staten Island warehouse overwhelmingly rejected a union bid last month.

Starbucks workers at dozens of US stores have voted to unionise in recent months, after two of the coffee chain’s stores in Buffalo, New York, voted to unionise late last year.

Many unionisation efforts have been led by young workers in their 20s and even in their teens. A group of Google engineers and other workers formed Alphabet Workers Union last year, which represents around 800 Google employees and is run by five people who are under 35.

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